Mark King (musician)

Mark Raymond King (born 20 October 1958) is an English musician. He is most famous for being the lead singer and bassist of the band Level 42. King is known for his slap style of playing the bass guitar, with MusicRadar describing him as "the guy who put the slap in pop during the 80s".[1] King received a BASCA Gold Badge Award in October 2015 in recognition of his contribution to British music.[2] He won the "Outer Limits" award at the 2017 Progressive Music Awards.[3]

Mark King
Mark King, lead vocalist of Level 42 in San Francisco, California – 1986
Background information
Born20 October 1958 (age 60)
OriginCowes, Isle of Wight, England
GenresPop rock, jazz-funk, new wave
Occupation(s)Singer, bassist
InstrumentsVocals, bass guitar, drums, guitar, keyboards, drum programming
Years active1979–present
LabelsPolydor, RCA, Virgin, DFP Music
Associated actsLevel 42, M, Re-Flex, Jakko Jakszyk, Gizmodrome, Leisure Process

Early life

King was born and brought up in Cowes, Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England. His father, Raymond King, was a dairyman, and the family lived in a tied dairy house. King recalled in a 2006 newspaper interview,[4] "it was post-war, with one brass tap, an outside toilet and a zinc bath in front of the fire". He later lived on the Camp Hill and Albany prison estates on the outskirts of Newport. He attended Kitbridge Middle School where he met his childhood sweetheart Tracey Wilson, later writing a song about her. He then went to Cowes High School.

Originally, King began his musical career as a drummer (starting at the age of nine after his father bought him his first kit for £10) and learning guitar from the age of eleven.[4][5] In 1974, when he was fifteen, King met his future Level 42 bandmate Phil Gould, who remembers that the young King "came and sat in with the band that I formed, at one of the gigs we were doing. He brought his kit down and blew me off, blew me off the stage because he was so much faster than me." Gould also remembers the young King as being a budding multi-instrumentalist, a "really good guitarist" who would "play around with programming, synth stuff. He was one of those natural musicians."[5]

King received encouragement to pursue a career in music from his music teacher at middle school, but was asked to leave Cowes High School at the age of 17, when he turned up at school wearing denim jeans. King recalls in a magazine interview "It didn't go down very well, and I was told my schooling had run its course." King then left home and stayed at a friend's house for two weeks, sleeping on the floor, before getting a job on a production line at a Ronson lighter factory. After quitting this job, King became a milkman, but he was still determined to "prove he was not a failure". So, at the age of 19, King moved to London, along with his milk van, in hope of finding a career in music.[6] He played drums for the band Re-Flex in their early years, before starting his later career as a bass player.

Level 42

King in Santa Clara, California (1987).
Mark King 1988 Tel Aviv Israel.jpeg
Mark King performing in 1988

King moved to London at the age of 19, subsequently forming Level 42 in 1979 with Phil Gould, keyboard player Mike Lindup and Phil's guitarist brother Boon. Although a drummer, King found himself having to learn bass after landing a job at Macari's. In an interview with the magazine Music U.K (Issue May 1984), he states:

I kept up playing drums until I moved to London. I'd always wanted to be a good drummer and it's just ironic that I've turned out to be a bass player. The way I started playing bass was that when I arrived in London I was looking for a job, and the only place I could find one was in Macaris in Charing Cross Rd. I wanted to get something involved in music, and that seemed like a good place to be. But Macaris didn't sell drums, and so I lied and said I could play bass. They said, "Fine, you sell the basses, and sweep up and get the coffees and whatever".

Nevertheless, King's natural rhythmic intuition probably contributed to his distinctive bass playing style, along with the popularity of jazz-funk in Britain at the time.[7]

At one of their first gigs, at the La Babalu club in Ryde, Level 42 were spotted by Andy Sojka, the head of small independent record label Elite and signed them. The next year, they were signed to Polydor and King spent the next nine years recording and touring with the band. The first Top 40 single, "Love Games", was released in 1981, heralding the band's first appearance on Top of the Pops. The big breakthrough came with the release of "The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up)" in 1983.

While in Level 42, King found his bass-playing services in some demand. He was invited by Nik Kershaw to play on his second album The Riddle (1984) and by Midge Ure to play on his albums The Gift (1985) and Answers to Nothing (1988).

Level 42 supported The Police in 1981, followed by tours with Steve Winwood and Queen in 1986 and Madonna in 1987.

Level 42 released the album Retroglide in 2006 and a European tour followed.

Level 42 (line up: Mark King, Mike Lindup, Gary Husband, Nathan King, Sean Freeman) toured in autumn of 2008.

Solo work

Mark King FFM13 001
King in 2013.

In 1984, he released his first solo album Influences, which was followed by One Man in 1998.

In 1999, he issued a collection of unused songs in the form of the album Trash; the name hinted at the rough, unpolished nature of the recordings (which were rejected by Virgin Records in favour of the tracks which would ultimately appear on the One Man album).

Trash was a historic release as it was issued without a record company and initially offered to fans via a low-key guestbook entry, made by King, on Using an Apple Mac, CD burner and inkjet printer, King manufactured the CD himself and posted it directly to fans, charging £17 plus postage. He hand signed and numbered early copies. Clearly not anticipating the popularity of the album, the initial CDs were numbered as part of a series of 100. Word soon spread of the CD and King eventually sold over 1,000 copies.

In the years following Trash, King repeated the successful 'home-made' formula releasing a string of live recordings including Live at the Jazz Cafe, Live on the Isle of Wight and Live at Reading Concert Hall (which despite being performed as a Mark King solo show, was released under the name of Level 42 as King retained the rights to the name shortly before releasing the CD). Despite being contracted to Universal Music imprint W14, King continues to release live shows on his own Summerhouse Record label, of which 2007's Retroglide Live DVD was the first.

Since coming back into the limelight in 1998 with One Man and the supporting UK tour, King has toured consistently around Europe and as far east as Indonesia. With the exception of Trash, he has only issued one new professionally released studio album in the 8-year period, September 2006's Retroglide under the Level 42 banner.

As of 2012, King is still the Level 42 frontman and plays a number of festival dates with co-founder, former band member and keyboard player, Mike Lindup.

In 2016, Mark joined supergroup Gizmodrome, also featuring Stewart Copeland, Adrian Belew and Vittorio Cosma. The band released their debut album in September 2017.

Playing style

Mark King Kongsberg Jazzfestival 2017 (214451)
Mark King in 2017, playing bass with a slapping technique.

Mark King helped to develop and popularize the slap and pop style of playing the bass guitar in the 1980s. The slapping and popping style was developed in the 1970s by funk bassists such as Larry Graham and further developed by jazz fusion bassists such as Stanley Clarke and Marcus Miller. King developed a rapid playing speed using this technique, and introduced technical elements that enabled him to produce a mix of percussive effects while still playing a bass line.

One of King's greatest influences was the musician Tom Taylor, who gave King guitar lessons when King was 12.

King's bass playing style is largely based on continuous 16th notes (aka semiquavers), sometimes described as "machine-gun" style.[8] This "machine-gun" style consists of playing rapidly using a combination of thumb slaps, pops, hammer-ons, and fretting hand slaps.

King also took part in a comedy skit titled "The Easy Guitar Book Sketch" with comedian Rowland Rivron and fellow British musicians Mark Knopfler, Lemmy from Motörhead, David Gilmour and Gary Moore.


King has used various models of bass guitar through the years, the two most commonly used brands have been Jaydee (as exemplified by "Love Games") and the Status Graphite (evident on his solo works). The Jaydees were built by John Diggins, a former employee of John Birch. Jaydee is phonetic for his initials, J.D.

Mark King has used Status Graphite basses since the 1980s including the Series-2000 and Empathy models. In November 2000, Rob Green and Mark King developed the Status KingBass, a headless, double cut-away bass with a woven graphite through-neck, Status Hyperactive pickups and active electronics. Status LEDs are a custom option on all Status models. Status Graphite basses are handmade in England by Rob Green.

Other known basses he has used are Alembics (specifically custom Series II models), of which there is a Signature Mark King model, Pangborn basses, a Zon bass (on the album "World Machine" for the song "Lying Still"). King's first fretless bass was a Japanese-made "Moon" Jazz-style bass. King also owned two Music Man Stingray basses, a Wal bass, which was fitted with an MB4 MIDI interface (used on the album Guaranteed, on the track "Lasso the Moon").

In 1996, King briefly used Fender basses. A limited run of 42 "Mark King" Jazz basses were made, based on the American Deluxe series, built and set up to King's specifications. They all came fitted with SIM's LED lights, flat-radiused fingerboards and a custom neck plate engraved with his signature. Also in 1999, King used two GB Spitfire basses, handmade in England by Bernie Goodfellow.

Personal life

Just prior to his divorce from his wife Pia, King moved back to his native Isle of Wight in 1988. During the 1990s, King purchased a pub in Ryde. The pub was called 'Joe Daflo's', a collaboration of the names of his three children; his son D'Arcy and daughters Jolie and Florrie.[9] King sold the pub in 2000 and it has now become part of a pub franchise[10] that operates in the coastal towns in the south of England. King now lives with his current wife, Ria, and his youngest daughter Marlee, who was born in 1996.[9]

He is the elder brother of fellow Level 42 and Frost* member Nathan King.


King is a longstanding supporter of The Prince's Trust. On 20 June 1986, King and Lindup performed alongside a multitude of stars, including Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Phil Collins, Mark Knopfler, Midge Ure and Elton John, at The Prince's Trust All-Star Rock Concert at Wembley Arena to celebrate the first 10 years of the Trust, which was subsequently released on video.[11] He was also a performer at The Prince’s Trust Rock Gala at the Royal Albert Hall in November 2010 and 2011.[12][13]

King serves as a tourism 'ambassador' for his native Isle of Wight.[14]


For the Level 42 discography, see Level 42 discography.


  • Influences (1984)
  • One Man (1998)
  • Trash (1999 /DFP Music)
  • Live at the Jazz Cafe (1999/DFP Music) (live)
  • Live on the Isle of Wight (2000/DFP Music) (live)



  • Mark King – Ohne Filter (1996) (live)
  • Mark King Group – Live at the Jazz Cafe (1999/DFP Music) (live)
  • Grupo Mark King – Live at the Isle of Wight (2000/DFP Music) (live)


  1. ^ "10 of the greatest slap bass players you need to hear". MusicRadar. 27 February 2014. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Marillion, Anathema, Steve Hackett among Progressive Music Award winners". 14 September 2017. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  4. ^ a b "IW County Press". Archived from the original on 7 June 2008. Retrieved 3 January 2009.
  5. ^ a b British Drum Icon - Interview with Phil Gould @
  6. ^ "EXTRA January 2011". Retrieved 15 July 2011.
  7. ^ "Question of Pop : Mark King soundbite". Retrieved 28 June 2014.
  8. ^ Adrian Ashton. "The Bass Handbook". p. 217. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  9. ^ a b "It's great to be with you on home turf". 3 September 2010. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  10. ^ "Joe Daflo's Southampton". Archived from the original on 1 April 2001. Retrieved 3 January 2009.
  11. ^ "Prince's Trust: 1986 Birthday Party". AllMusic. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  12. ^ "Queen rock Prince's Trust charity gala". BBC News. 18 November 2010. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  13. ^ "Joss Stone, Alison Moyet, Boy George Rock Prince's Trust Rock Gala At Royal Albert Hall". Huffington Post. 24 November 2011. Retrieved 24 August 2014.
  14. ^ "Daisy becomes tourism ambassador". Isle of Wight County Press Online. 20 May 2013. Retrieved 7 August 2014.

External links

A Kinder Eye

"A Kinder Eye" is a song written by Mark King and George M. Green dedicated to the memory of Frances Robblee, George Green's mother-in-law.

The song was released in 1991, in the album Guaranteed, album of studio of the British musical group Level 42. The Music speaks about a painter widow, that painted lonely. All their pictures had an expressive face. This painter had an ideal that nor she got to reach. A part of her professional and personal life was transformed by George M. Green with Mark King help and of the musicians of Level 42 in a beautiful song. Allan Holdsworth's solo contributes with the homage message that the song contains.

Are You Hearing (What I Hear)?

"Are You Hearing (What I Hear)?" is a single by the British group Level 42, that was released in 1982.

It was the first single to be released from the album, The Pursuit of Accidents and reached #49 in the UK charts in May 1982.

Forever Now (Level 42 song)

"Forever Now" is a song released in 1994 by the British musical group Level 42. It was the first single from the album Forever Now. In the United Kingdom it reached #19 on the UK single charts, and charted in four other countries: Germany (#51), Mexico, The Netherlands (#31) and Australia.

The music video was directed by Nigel Simpkiss.

Guaranteed (Level 42 song)

"Guaranteed" is a song by English musical group Level 42. It was released in 1991 on the album of the same name. It was the group's first single of the 1990s, and came two years after the group's previous single, "Take Care of Yourself".

Heaven in My Hands

"Heaven in My Hands" is a 1988 song by the British group Level 42.

It was released as the first single from the band's album Staring at the Sun, and reached number 12 in the UK charts. It was the first Level 42 single not to feature the Gould brothers, Boon and Phil, following their departure from the band the previous year. However, Boon Gould did write the song's lyric.

The instrumental introduction, heard on the extended 12" single version of the song, was heavily used by BBC Sport early in their coverage of the 1989 Wimbledon Championships. The music was also adapted for the Croatian and Slovakian versions of the hit television game show Wheel of Fortune.


Influences is the debut solo album by English musician Mark King, singer and bass player with Level 42. It was released by Polydor Records in July 1984.The album features a cover of the song "I Feel Free" by Cream, which was released as a single. King played most of the instruments on the album. Guest musicians include Level 42 keyboardist Mike Lindup and Drummie Zeb from Aswad, who played drums on "Clocks Go Forward".

It's Over (Level 42 song)

"It's Over" is a 1987 song by the British band Level 42. Released as the fourth single from their album Running in the Family, it reached #10 in the UK Singles Chart (becoming the band's sixth and final UK Top 10 hit).

Leaving Me Now

"Leaving Me Now" is a single released in 1985 by the British musical group Level 42. It was the second single taken from their sixth studio album World Machine. The song is written by Mark King, Phil Gould and Wally Badarou. A slow, emotive ballad written about the end of a relationship, it contains a piano solo by Mike Lindup in the middle and at the end, though this is edited down for the single edit.

The single's cover art is the same as the next single "World Machine", and illustrates a hole in the sky. The single was released in many countries beyond the United Kingdom, including the United States, Germany, Australia, the Netherlands, Canada, Argentina, Japan and others.

Love Games (Level 42 song)

Love Games is the first single from the first album of the English musical group Level 42. It was also their first single to break into the UK top 40, reaching no.38 in the spring of 1981 and marked their first appearance on Top of the Pops.


"Micro-kid" is a single released in October, 1983 by the British musical group Level 42 from their fourth studio album Standing in the Light. The song is on the Polydor Record label POSP 643. It ran for 5 weeks on the UK single charts and reached #37.

This song is included on the Level 42 collections Level Best, The Very Best of Level 42 and The Definitive Collection.

My Father's Shoes

"My Father's Shoes" is a song released in 1992 by the band Level 42 with the label RCA. It was released in only two countries: United Kingdom and Spain.The video clip is the last video of Level 42 to feature of Jakko Jakszyk and Gary Husband. Jakko left the band in 1992, but came back in 1994 for the last Level 42 tour prior to the disband. Gary Husband left the band in 1992, but came back in 1994 in the reform of the group and stayed in the group until the present day, and recorded the studio album Retroglide. The song peaked at #55 on the UK Singles Chart in 1992.

One Man (Mark King album)

One Man is the second solo studio album by English musician Mark King, bassist and vocalist of Level 42. It was released in September 1998, more than 14 years after King's previous solo album, Influences. It includes songs co-written by King and Level 42's former guitarist, Boon Gould.

Overtime (Level 42 song)

"Overtime" is a single of the British musical group, Level 42, from the 1991 album, Guaranteed. It was written by Mike Lindup, Mark King and Drew Barfield. It reached number 62 in the UK Singles Chart.

The music video was filmed in black and white and set in a factory.

Take Care of Yourself

"Take Care Of Yourself" is a song released by the British pop/jazz-funk group Level 42 in 1989. The song was released on the compilation Level Best. It was the last song recorded with guitarist Alan Murphy, who died on October 19, 1989, three days after the single was issued. The music video is a retrospective of rock styles from the 60's through to the 80's, and features (for that time) state-of-the-art animation. In some ways it is reminiscent of the video "We Close Our Eyes" by Go West. Lindup, Husband and King appear several times dressed as hippies, punks and heavy metal musicians. Murphy doesn't appear in the video.

Take a Look (song)

"Take a Look" is a single released in 1988 by British band Level 42 from the album Staring at the Sun. It reached #32 on the UK Singles Chart.

To Be with You Again

"To Be With You Again" is a 1987 single by British band Level 42, from their album Running in the Family. The song was written by Mark King and Boon Gould, and was released as a single in other countries such as Australia, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and others by the record label Polydor.

"To Be With You Again" is the third Running in the Family single, released at the peak of their career. The single was preceded by two other UK Top 10 singles for the band: "Lessons In Love" (#3) and "Running in the Family" (#6). The song also gained popularity in the Netherlands, peaking at #6 in the Dutch Top 40.

This song has one music video, directed by Peter Christopherson, released in the same year of 1987.

Also, before its final draft, the rough draft of the song was first titled Mother Nature Says and has different lyrics which can be found on YouTube [1].

Tracie (song)

"Tracie" is a song by British band Level 42, written by Gary Husband and Mark King, and recounts King's times with his childhood sweetheart, Tracie Wilson. It appeared on the band's 1988 album Staring at the Sun, and features keyboardist Mike Lindup playing harmonica.

It was remixed for issue as a single in early 1989, upon which it peaked at #25 in the UK, and at #14 in the Netherlands. The photo of the band on the sleeve of the single is taken by Linda McCartney.

Two Hearts Collide

"Two Hearts Collide" is a pop/romantic song released in 1988, in the studio album Staring at the Sun, by the British musical group Level 42. It was written by Mark King and Boon Gould, that had already abandoned the band. It was not well received by critics in the beginning, as almost all of the music of the album Staring at the Sun, in spite of this, was well received by the fans of the band. This song is in the compilation released in 1998 Turn It On. The lead vocals are by Mark King.

Weave Your Spell

"Weave Your Spell" is a single by the British group Level 42, that was released in 1982.

It was the second single to be released from the album, The Pursuit of Accidents and reached #43 in the UK charts in August 1982. The song features a lead vocal from keyboardist, Mike Lindup.

Studio albums
Live albums
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